A former mayor of Rotherham who quit his post after being accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl has said he would like to return to the job after being cleared of the attack.
Barry Dodson was unanimously found not guilty by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court this afternoon of carrying out the alleged attack in the summer of 1987 following a short trial.
Mr Dodson appeared to fight back tears as the verdict was given after the jury was out for less than three hours.
Speaking outside court surrounded by his family and legal team, Mr Dodson, who is no longer a Rotherham councillor, said people should ‘watch this space’ about him standing for election again.
Asked about the possibility of coming back as mayor, he said: “I would love to finish my term of office as mayor. I had only just started and what a position that is.”
Mr Dodson stepped down as mayor in June last year after being emailed by the complainant who claimed he was a ‘dirty pervert who loves children’ and she was going to go to the police about an alleged sexual assault she said had happened in the grounds of Boston Castle.
In court, Mr Dodson had described the allegation against him as ‘a load of rubbish’.
He said his life had been ‘ruined’ by the allegation, which he alerted both Rotherham Council and the police to.
Mr Dodson, 67, of Cranworth Road, East Dene, said: “It has been absolutely terrible, not just for me but all my family and my grandchildren, everybody.”
He added he has had ‘absolutely fantastic’ support from his friends, family and local constituents.
His solicitor Steve Smith said: “This is an innocent man and in the past year, they took away his post as mayor, his job as a councillor and the Legal Aid Agency chased him for money he hadn’t got. But the one thing they haven’t taken away from him is his character. He walks away a free man and an innocent man. This man can walk away with his head held high. We never doubted his innocence for one minute.”
Mr Smith said the recent Rotherham grooming scandal may have contributed to Mr Dodson’s prosecution.
“The town and people get a very bad press because of a very small minority,” he said.
“There is a problem with a very small minority. That has blown up to such an extent that with anybody charged with offences if you mention Rotherham they think it is consistent with guilt. In this man’s case, that was never a factor.”
Police said today they hoped the verdict would not prevent victims of abuse from coming forward.
Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin, District Police Commander for Rotherham, said: “We acknowledge and respect the verdict of the jury. A full and thorough investigation took place since the allegations were first made against Mr Dodson in June of last year and this was taken forward by the Crown Prosecution Service.
“I hope that today’s verdict will not prevent any victims of abuse from coming forward and speaking to police. Protecting people from harm is at the heart of our work and we will listen and do everything in our power to bring any victim of abuse the justice they deserve.”
A spokeswoman for Rotherham Council said the authority had noted the verdict of the jury and added Mr Dodson is ‘not currently a serving councillor’.